A beginners guide to common garden birds of the UK, including their songs and tips on how to identify them.
There are more than 2 million goldfinches in the UK and they are found from southern England all the way to northern Scotland and all across Ireland. They have a wingspan of around 23 cm and weigh between 14 and 19 grams. Gold finches are most recognised by their red and white faces and The bright patch of gold on each of their wings that gives them their name. They are a common garden visitor and you can encourage them by providing nyger seed feeders and by leaving the seed heads on any thistles that grow.
House sparrows are boisterous little birds that have followed mankind around ost of the planet. The female has a mottled brown head and back with grey undersides. The males are similar but also have brown and grey head markings and a darker black bib. The size and shading of this bib represents their social status, the more prominent the bib the more dominant the bird. House sparrows have a wing span of around 25cm and weigh 24 to 38grams. As their name suggests, their nesting sites are often associated with houses and they nest communally under loose tiles and in house eves. Although there are more than 10 million of these birds in the UK, this represents a decline of around 70% since the 1970s.
Dunnocks are often called hedge sparrows but they are infact, not very closely related to sparrows at all. They have slate grey and brown feathers over most of their bodies but have a clear speckled brown patch on each of their cheeks. They have a wingspan of 21 centimetres and weigh from 19 to 24 grams. Dunnocks spend a lot of their time on the floor or in the vegetation close to it and they have very interesting breeding behaviours. Sometimes they pair up the traditional way but they may also practice polygyny, polyandry and polygynandry.
Blackbirds have got to be one of the most familiar birds in parks and gardens across the UK. The males are fully black with just a yellow orange ring around their eyes and a yellow beak. The females are brown and the colouring on their eye rings and beaks is less prominent. There are between 10 and 15 million pairs in the UK and this this number is bolstered by a further 5 million that migrate from mainland Europe for the winter. Blackbirds have a wingspan of around 36 cm and can weight from 80 to one hundred grams.
Starlings are most famous for their murmurations, where they form huge flocks and fly in formation to create amazing patterns and shapes in the sky. Although they look black from a distance, starlings are actually covered in oily green and purple markings that shimmer in the sunlight. They have wingspans of around 40cm and weigh from 75 to 90 grams. Starlings are still one of the UK’s most common garden birds but their numbers have actually dropped by almost 70% over the last 40 years. Its unclear what has caused this decline but it has been suggested that global warming may be at least partly responsible.
Wood pigeons are the UKs largest and most common type of pigeon. They have slate grey wings with a white patch on either shoulder. They also have a white patch on either side of their neck and their head is a pale blue colour. There are more than 10 million wood pigeons in the UK and they can be seen as a pest as they cause damage to grain and vegetable crops. They have a wing span of around 80 cm and can weigh upto 550 grams.
Collared doves are a relative new-comer to the rbitish countryside and although they had been occasionally reported before, they were first recorded nesting here in 1956. In the years previous to this they had spread naturally from their native asia across the whole of Europe and as the result of introductions around the Bahamas they have now spread across most of north America too. They are a rather non-descript grey brown colour throughout and their only real distinguishing mark is a black collar that runs around the back of their necks. They have a wing span of around 50 cm, can weigh up to 200grams and there are now thought to be more than 2 million living in the UK.
Feral pigeons are a frequent sight in our towns and cities. They are the descendants of wild rock doves that were domesticated upto 6,000 years ago. As a result of this they can be many different colours, shapes and sizes. They have a wingspan of between 63 to 70cm and can weigh from 230 to 370 grams.
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